If you’re under the impression that you and your company can avoid social media just by refusing to register any accounts, think again. Managing your company’s reputation can be trickier than you think. There are many sites out there that will create their own listing for your company, typically based on details that they find online in various places, and it’s highly unlikely that they will notify you at all. Much like the Borg, resistance against these sites is futile.
What’s more, it can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to remove your listing from these sites. You may be asking yourself “So what? Why should I care about free publicity?” You may change your mind once you learn that some of these sites allow users to post reviews, both positive and negative, about your products, services, or any other experiences they have had with you.“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
In America, information like addresses, phone numbers, sports scores, poll results, and similar facts are exempt from copyright. That means once your company’s contact information is out there, it’s out there, and people are free to add you to their directories as they please. In fact, as an example, if your company is listed on Yelp, they do not even allow you to remove the listing — ever. Yelp offers the option for you to “claim” the listing, and have a basic verification process to make sure that you are actually affiliated with the company, but they will not let you remove the listing.
Even with sites that DO allow you to delete your company’s listing, it’s fairly common practice to restrict the deletion of the actual reviews, as an attempt to curb astroturfing. You can spend years developing the perfect Facebook page, perfecting your marketing and collecting fans, but when one unhappy consumer leaves an indelible, negative review, your options are to deal with it or delete your whole page.
You may be thinking, “well, that’s not going to happen to me.” Be careful! Despite your best efforts, there may be times in business where your customer goes away unsatisfied. This can happen even to the best of us. Perhaps the issue was out of your control; perhaps shipping of parts or products was delayed thanks to a big storm, or maybe you did everything right, but the customer messed up and can’t admit it to themselves, so they want to take it out on you.
You may even encounter the avid blackmailer, who threatens to write completely falsified negative accounts of their experience with you online, unless you placate them. These people can be rude and downright unreasonable, acting like total jerks unless you provide discounts, free services, or additional benefits. The ability to hide anonymously behind a computer screen gives many people the courage to make nasty comments, even if they would never dare to voice such opinions out loud in person.
So what are your options for protecting your company’s reputation? Do you even have any? The answer is yes. While websites such as Yelp and Facebook are trying to prevent companies from engaging in false advertising, they are also aware that reviewers can be disingenuous. For example, on Facebook, you can block and ban troublemakers, which will prevent them from interacting with your page in the future. However, on Yelp, your best recourse is to collect positive reviews to counteract the negative reviews.
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